During COVID-19, Job and Financial Worries Are Affecting Mental Health

Even among people who are still employed during the COVID-19 pandemic, worries about future job loss and its financial impact are having a significant impact on mental health, reports a study in the September Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

“[J]ob insecurity due to COVID-19 and financial concern are associated with greater depressive and anxiety symptoms,” according to the new research by Natalie J. Shook, PhD, of University of Connecticut School of Nursing and colleagues.

The researchers analyzed survey responses from 474 US adults who were currently employed in April 2020: a period when the US unemployment rate reached its highest level since the Great Depression. Participants were asked how worried they were about the effects of COVID-19 on their employment (job insecurity) and about their family’s financial situation getting worse over the coming year (financial concern).

On standard rating scales, the employees had “relatively high levels of psychological distress.” About one-fourth reported moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety and depression. More than 30 percent expressed concern about their financial situation over the next 12 months.

“Greater job insecurity and financial concern were related to greater depressive and anxiety symptoms,” Dr. Shook and coauthors write. After adjustment for other factors, including health and other COVID-19 concerns and experiences, greater financial concern was “uniquely associated” with increased anxiety symptoms.

Job insecurity was related to increased depressive symptoms—“possibly reflecting a sense of hopelessness with the current state of the workforce due to the pandemic,” according to the authors. Greater job insecurity due to COVID-19 was indirectly related to increased anxiety symptoms, via increased financial concern. The researchers note that worry about future events is a key component of anxiety.

“Our results demonstrate the potential adverse consequences that job insecurity and financial concern have on employee mental health,” Dr. Shook and coauthors conclude. “Based on these findings, for those experiencing depressive symptoms during the pandemic, it may be particularly important for employers to be mindful and try to minimize feelings of uncertainty for the employees, as well as instilling hope or agency in employees.”
About the Author
Dr. Shook may be contacted for interviews at natalie.shook@uconn.edu.
ACOEM (www.acoem.org), an international society of 4,000 occupational physicians and other health care professionals, provides leadership to promote optimal health and safety of workers, workplaces, and environments.
About the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (www.joem.org) is the official journal of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Edited to serve as a guide for physicians, nurses, and researchers, the clinically oriented research articles are an excellent source for new ideas, concepts, techniques, and procedures that can be readily applied in the industrial or commercial employment setting.


Wilson JM, Lee J, Fitzgerald HN, Oosterhoff B, Sevi B, Shook NJ. Job insecurity and financial concern during the COVID-19 pandemic are associated with worse mental health. J Occup Environ Med. 2020;62(9):686-691.